I’m still trying to get my head around today’s news that Mayor Potter’s latest budget proposal does not include funding for the Bicycle Master Plan Update process.
I understand that transportation budgets are tight these days. According to PDOT, gas tax revenue has dwindled in recent years from $8 million per year to just $1.5 million per year.
I also realize that in any budget process, tough decisions must be made and it all comes down to priorities.
The Mayor’s Office says their decision to not fund the Bicycle Master Plan is a result of their focus on maintaining existing infrastructure and increasing safety.
In some ways, the Bicycle Master Plan is existing infrastructure that needs to be maintained, and it is key to increasing the safety of Portlanders.
Think of the current plan (which was adopted in 1995) as a road filled with potholes. It is woefully outdated and nearly useless to planners.
I also can’t imagine how a project that is already chugging along on all cylinders can be, in the words of Portland Mercury writer Scott Moore, “de-funded.”
So what would happen without any more funding?
The current Bicycle Master Plan Update process, which you’ve been reading about on this site for weeks, would essentially grind to a halt. City bike coordinator Roger Geller, who currently has staff support both within PDOT and in the form of outside consultants, would suddenly be stranded on an island, faced with mountains of work to do and no time or resources to do it.
How much do other cities spend to create Bicycle Master Plans?
With no additional funding, our Bike Master Plan will only have been funded to the tune of $50,000 (the sum allocated in last year’s budget). According to one insider, a good Master Plan can cost anywhere from $300,000 (for Boise, Idaho) to $800,000 (for San Francisco, California).
The message is clear. With no more funding, we will be much further from making Portland a truly safe place for human powered transportation.
So what happens now?
After speaking with the Mayor’s Office, I really don’t think the Mayor will change his proposal. Our main hope is to convince one of the other Commissioners to propose an amendment and then make sure they vote it in when the budget goes before City Council.
I simply cannot fathom our City not funding this process. It would be an embarrassment to our community and would end up costing us much more in the long run.
Let’s hope common sense prevails and that our city leaders come to see the value in maintaining the Bicycle Master Plan, a key piece of Portland’s transportation infrastructure.